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Karaoke FAQ

What IS karaoke?

Karaoke is a form of interactive entertainment in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music (and/or a music video) using a microphone and public address system.

The music is typically a well-known pop song minus the lead vocal. Lyrics are usually displayed on a video screen, along with a moving symbol or changing color and/or music video images, to guide the singer.  (source: Wikipedia) 

While karaoke can be performed at home, the popular term "karaoke" has come to mean performing in an outside location, such as a restaurant or bar.

Where did karaoke start?

The first "karaoke machine" was invented in 1971 by Japanese coffeehouse singer Daisuke Inoue in Kobe, Japan.  Mr. Inoue originally created karaoke machines for customers who wanted to sing his songs at home, and later produced a few units and leased them to local restaurants. 

Unfortunately, Inoue failed to patent his invention, and the idea was stolen, patented, and mass-produced by Filipino inventor Roberto Del Rosario in 1975.

When did karaoke first come to the U.S.?

Depends on who you ask, but the longest running karaoke show in the U.S. was Dimples in Burbank, CA, who started with 8-track tapes and lyric sheets in 1976.  Sadly, Dimples just closed last year,  :(

What is a KJ?

Karaoke Jockey / Host.

Is karaoke the original music?

For the most part, no.  With a few notable exceptions, karaoke tracks have been reproduced by a professional recording studio (some more professional than others) to sound like the original music, but they are not usually the original tracks.

How do they get the words on the screen?

Most karaoke shows use the CD+G / MP3+G format, which is basically an audio track with low resolution graphics added.  While the audio portion of a CD+G / MP3+G will usually play on any CD player or computer, the graphics require either a specialized player or decoding software to make the words show on the screen.

Does the word karaoke really mean "tone deaf" in Japanese?

Ummm, no.  That's just a old joke.  While "karaoke" is a Japanese word, it actually means "empty orchestra" or "open orchestra".

How do I take the lead vocal out of a regular CD?

Good luck.  Lots of devices and software have been invented to do this job, but I've never found one that works reliably.  However...for those of you who insist on trying, here's the rundown:

There were some early karaoke players produced by JVC, Pioneer and RSQ that had a "vocal masking" feature, but they didn't work that well, and they've all been discontinued.

Peripheral devices, such as the Thompson Vocal Eliminator and the Alesis Vocal Zapper, are still available, but they are expensive, and have limited effectiveness.

You can also try software programs, such as Audacity, the DART Karaoke Studio, and VoiX, that offer vocal elimination features, but don't get your hopes up.  The results aren't that great.

Can I make my own karaoke?

There are a bunch of programs available, but we can't encourage you, 'cause unless you actually wrote the song, it involves breaking copyright laws. (and most of the programs suck, anyways)

Who makes the best sounding tracks?

Unfortunately, most of the best manufacturers (Sound Choice, DK, Pioneer, Chartbuster) have are out of business.  While you can still find a lot of their tracks, they are no longer producing new music (thanks to karaoke-pirating assholes).

Some overseas companies, such as Zoom and Sunfly have decent tracks, but are harder to get, since they no longer sell to U.S. customers.  Fortunately, SBI still does.

Also, Karaoke-Version still sells to the U.S., and they make some great quality tracks.  Limited song selection, but they have some stuff noone else carries, and they are very responsive to requests.

Is it illegal for a KJ to play burned tracks at their show?

Yeah, it is, and I don't care what the clueless nimrods say.  Karaoke is SOFTWARE, not music, and does not fall under Fair Use laws that govern regular music.

At one point, some karaoke companies extended limited permission for KJs to burn one backup copy of a disc, but revoked the priviledge when it started being abused by KJs burning multiple copies for use in different rigs.  Now, the problem has escalated to the point where whole hard drives full of pirated music are being burned and sold illegally, forcing many manufacturers to file lawsuits to recoup their lost profits.

However, while it is technically illegal to use burned tracks, manufacturers are not as quick to prosecute KJs that run just one set of equipment.

Is it illegal for a singer to use burned tracks at a show?

Technically, yeah...but we seriously doubt you're going to get pulled over by the karaoke police on your way off the stage.  One karaoke singer is just too small a fish for anybody to go after.

However, there ARE some KJs who refuse to play burned tracks on moral grounds....and we encourage all singers to be respectful of their preference, and not pout when a KJ declines to play their stuff.

Can I bring my own music to one of your shows?

Sure....but it needs to either be an original CD+G, or a burned disc in MP3 or MP3+G format.  No DVDs, YouTube videos, or
flash drives, please.  And no, we can't play something from your phone.  ;)

Other questions?

If your question wasn't answered here, please check out:  DB Karaoke's FAQ, or email your question to editor@venturakaraoke.com.

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